With a plea to voters, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed steep cuts across a variety of programs Monday to close a nearly $16 billion state budget deficit.
As predicted, public education from kindergarten though college, could see billions in cuts, pending voter approval of tax hikes this November. The fiscal year starts July 1.
"We're going to have to cut deeper," the Democratic governor said in Sacramento while releasing his budget revision.
"But cutting alone really doesn't do it," Brown said. "That's why I'm linking these serious budget reductions—real increased austerity—with a plea to the voters: Please increase taxes temporarily on the most affluent and everyone else with a quarter of a cent sales tax."
Brown said the state's budget deficit ballooned to $15.7 billion since January, when it was estimated at about $9.2 billion. His revised budget includes billions of dollars in cuts—including a proposed four-day work week for some state employees that would reduce them to 38 hours and allow some offices to be closed once a week. There are also proposed cuts in home-care funding and Medi-Cal payments.
Funding for schools and the state's two major university systems will remain in question, however, until the November election, when Brown will ask voters to approve a bump in the state's 7.25 percent sales tax rate to 7.5 percent, and to increase the income tax rate on people earning more than $250,000 a year.
If the proposals fail, another $6 billion in cuts will take effect Jan. 1—most of them to community colleges, which could see $5.5 billion in cuts.
Elected officials at the and district have urged passage of the tax measures.
"We need the voters to support those tax measures—and that’s the ball we gotta keep our eye on in the immediate short term. That’s essential," Board of Trustee member Louise Jaffe said earlier this spring.
Since fiscal year 2008-09, state funding for California’s community colleges has decreased by 23 percent, according to the Community College League of California.
The California State University and University of California systems would each face another $250 million cut in their budgets—likely meaning more program cuts and tuition hikes.
The K-12 budget proposal assumes passage of the tax initiatives, which could provide a 16 percent increase, totaling $6.9 billion, in funding than what was budgeted to the current fiscal year. If the measures don't pass, the budget includes automatic trigger cuts of $4.8 billion, the equivalent of more than the cost of three weeks of instruction.
Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education has previously called such a trigger irresponsible. Still, in January, he said he would urge voters to pass the tax proposals anyway to keep much-needed revenues flowing into the district.
"It always bears repeating that the 2011-12 level of funding is already woefully inadequate, especially after $18 million in cuts over the previous several years," Allen said at the time.
Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy said the November ballot measure and the triggers made budgeting for local districts "extremely difficult if not impossible." He, too, wants voters to approve the hikes.
"If the measure passes, this will give schools some badly needed funds that have been promised over the past several years," he said. "If voters do not pass the initiative, the results are so catastrophic it is simply untenable."
Brad Torgan, the lone Republican candidate in the , issued a statement Monday calling Brown's budget proposal a “fantasyland” budget designed to hold school funding hostage to tax hikes.
"Brown’s budget holds the children of California hostage by linking $5 billion in education funding to the passage of the proposed tax increases he needs to balance the budget," he said in a statement. "Our kids, our voters and our states deserve better.”
Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said Brown's budget proposal
makes clear that a significant budget problem remains.
"We will continue to work with the governor and the Senate to close the remaining budget problem, which will require the Legislature making tough cuts and the voters approving temporary revenues," Perez said. "Through an open and transparent process, we will craft an on-time, balanced budget by June 15."
Compared to January, Brown's May revision to the budget proposal proposes "far deeper" cuts, his office said in a press release. It increases cuts by $4.1 billion, bringing total cuts to state employee compensation, welfare, health care, higher education, courts, and other critical government programs to $8.3 billion.